Monday, January 5, 2009

Cable Car Confessions: The Conductor's Daughter

Ding ding all aboard. "Next stop Powell Street Chinatown. Tickets please show me your tickets please." This cable car confession happened three days before Christmas. I was taking the cable car home after a very long day at work and sat quiet trying to unwind from my day. The weather had turned cold for San Francisco so I sat inside to stay as warm as possible. I stared out of the window and fell deep into my thoughts, thinking about what I needed to do to prepare for work and for the upcoming holidays. I stared out onto the streets, there were life sized ornaments in front of the office buildings and each building seemed to be wrapped in a holiday bow with white lights, red ribbons and Christmas trees.

My attention was brought back to what was happening inside of the cable car. I noticed that it wasn't a full car yet and seemed occupied by mostly locals traveling home. There were two cable car drivers on the car. One man who was driving the front of the cable car had white hair, was short and very tiny 'Slim'. There was a second cable car conductor and he was in charge of driving the back of the car and collecting tickets. 'Bob' was tall and weighed maybe 250 pounds. All the riders had to squeeze in to make room as Bob walked by us. He was very stern while collecting tickets, maybe even a little forgetful - I noticed that he asked for people to show their tickets again after they had just shown them to him.

I noticed a lady dressed in professional work clothes, got onto the cable car at the next stop. She was a petite Asian woman who looked to be in her twenties. (At this point, I was completely people watching and eavesdropping. Whatever you want to call it :) I wondered how Bob was going to treat this woman. To my surprise she was greeted by a huge and warm smile from Slim. Slim called to Bob and asked him if he knew who she was? Immediately Bob's demeanor changed when he saw the woman. He went to her and instead of asking her for her ticket he hugged her.

Slim said to Bob, "She is a conductor's daughter."
Slim then asked the woman, "How are you? How is your Dad doing? How old are you now sweetie? You can't be more then twenty?"
The woman replied, "I am well. My Dad is feeling better and believe it or not I am thirty-three now."
"Wow!" Bob the cable car driver said. "Are you still living off of the Powell Street line?"
The woman smiled, "Yes we are. Dad could never move us away from the cable car line even after he had to retire because of his illness. The cable car is apart of him."
Slim then said to Bob, "I remember when she was maybe ten and use to ride the cable cars with her father all day." Then he turned to the woman and asked." Your father was a conductor for how long?"
She replied "Almost twenty-five years. It's still hard for him not be able on the line!"

It was at that moment that I realized that they were treating this woman with as much respect and care that we would for a police officer or preacher's daughter. Even Bob melted and became warm and friendly to her. Once cable car conductors get through the initiation process of becoming drivers and earn their stripes they stay driving the cable car for years and years. The salary is really good, they get great pensions and become a part of a San Francisco family.

Maybe I went into the wrong profession and should have become a cable car driver! Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be recognized because of your relation to a family member and something that they did? My father is a marketing guy. What did your father do?


Miss Anne said...

What a fabulous story!

My dad used to be an Special ED teacher in the jr high, but then went into insurance and now is the regional rep for an insurance company.

he was well known in the school and everyone knew he was my dad, it was both a blessing and an annoyance.. :)

happiest new year sweet pea! ♥

Porty said...

Happy new year. Fun story. Thanks!

For me, my pops was a career Air Force guy, but it was his retirement job where I saw a very different side of him. He worked for the Utah state veterans employment department and it seems that EVERYBODY knows my dad. My dad is funny, witty, and interesting to talk to--when you can actually get him to speak. So it was always strange to hear how many people knew him and how much they seemed to adore him. It was fun to see that side of him.

George said...

Laura. This really was a great story, the images of San Francisco, the cable car and the operators, a nice setting for my doldrum day.

My dad was an accountant for a shipyard in Seattle. He was known by those involved.

But he was more known by his movie star cowboy looks (at least that's what I kept hearing) and the size of our family (all twelve of us)

I was always surprised how much everyone respected him and seemed to run into people that knew him and us in our little town of Seattle.

amy (metz) walker said...

How interesting...I guess there is something to be said for running into one of "your own". My dad was an airline pilot...always on the go! Can honestly say no one would ever recognize me as his kid in a million years...couldn't go with him to work, that's for sure.

La Belette Rouge said...

I love this series. I hope a cable car driver finds your blog one day soon. I am sure they would love it even more than I do.

Georgie B said...

Nice story.

My late father was a well known and well respected computer science/mathematics tearcher at a local college/university.

Funny thing is that, he was extremely well known to the average college student, because he was the one that administered the Math Placement exams (it was a required entrance exam that you took in order to determine if you had the prequisite math skills needed in order to take the math/computer classes of your choice. If you didn't pass, you got put into the infamous Math 101 class, basically, high school algebra, which you had to pass in order to take the classes of your choice), which quickly determined if you were collee material or not.

Braja said...

My Dad was quite well known in some circles for the music he wrote, although he died when I was 8 so I couldn't really grasp it...

Bella said...

What a fantastic post... I really loved this.
And I admit, I got a little giddy by your oh so lovely comment, thank you love.


The Lollipop Girl

NewfoundlandGirl said...

My younger years were spent in a relatively small town, where my father was the big boss at the main employer. We never got away with much, not with a whole town watching!

These days I live in a larger city, and my hubby is a well known musician. He's recognized alot when we go out,it can be pretty intrusive. It bothers me sometimes, but it's different for our daughter. She's alternately proud and embarrassed and only time will tell what her memories will be of it.

June Saville said...

This really is a great concept Laura. Life on a cable car has to be typical of a large part of your community, and precious for that.
People centred!

LipSmacker said...

Oh, I love the city at Christmas, it's my favorite time to visit union square and go up to Cheesecake Factory and look down on the city!

My dad was a corporate guy but on the side my parents owned the local Baskin Robbins and everyone knew my parents because of their contributions to the community. I loved to walk down to the shop after school or ride my bike down on the weekends and visit the local store owners. My Dad always "brought dessert" to every party/picnic/etc! :)